GUEST BLOG: Top tips for women who want to start their own business

Suck it up

It's hard to come up with an idea for a new business just by sitting on the sofa and racking your brains. Look around you. Inspiration is everywhere. If jewellery is your thing, check out magazines, fashion blogs, student shows, trade shows and online retailers, to immerse yourself in that world. Sit in a coffee shop with a notebook or go for a wander around town for half an hour at lunch time. You'll soon start spotting new businesses, interesting behaviour and potential opportunities.


Special sauce

Starting a business doesn't necessarily mean coming up with a unique idea or invention. Coffee shops have already been invented, but there's no reason a new one shouldn't make money. It's a case of doing something special that makes you stand out from the crowd. How will your business be different and special? How will you wow your customers?


Raking it in

How are you going to make money? It's the million dollar question, literally. Remember, this is not your hobby, it's a business. Be clear on this right from the start - it might be a good idea to have a few different sources of income in case one doesn't work out.


Spend a penny

You're going to turn over lots of money, but how much will you need to spend to get there?  In our experience, costs associated with running a business are always higher than you'd think, so don't get caught out. Think about direct costs associated with each product such as raw materials, packaging, delivery and your general costs like accountants, electricity and web hosting. We feel another spreadsheet coming on... Oh and don't forget to include a salary for yourself - you've got to eat!


Pitch it

You need to be able to talk about your business idea passionately, but concisely. Launching into a 20 minute speech every time someone asks you about your business isn't ideal! What is your business going to do? What are you selling? Why do people need it? Be brief and don't waffle. Sum it up in one sentence, so that if you bump into a very generous millionaire in a lift you can dazzle them with your ingenuity and maybe encourage them to write you a cheque before they reach their floor.


Friends first

Your friends, family and of course your local More To Life Than Shoes group are your readymade focus group. Get them to sample your product and ask them for honest feedback. Is the price right? Do they like the colour and taste? Where would they expect to see them - in Selfridges or the local market? And so on. Really pick their brains and ply them with wine if necessary.



Home hub

We know some people can be a bit snobby about setting up a business from home, but why would you risk loads of cash on office space or a retail premise before you're ready? We've met some amazing women who've started businesses from their kitchen table, including the likes of pottery genius Emma Bridgewater and famous inventor Mandy Haberman. Hanging out at home until you're ready is the smart thing to do.


Network your socks off

Get involved in local groups (like More To Life Than Shoes) to build your network. You'll be amazed at the power of word of mouth and how quickly news of your new venture starts to spread. Plus, having a supportive network of likeminded ladies to help you make it happen will come in very handy.


Spread it

You don't need to spend millions on a massive advertising campaign to spread the word.  Get creative and have fun! The key is to consider your customers. Who are they? What do they do? What do they read? How do they spend their time? How can you grab their attention?  Twitter is a fantastic tool - and it's free. Start engaging with people in your area who share your interests and your business will start to blossom. Just, remember, to chat to people first and foremost, and not to endlessly plug your stuff.


World domination

Women often get accused of running kitchen table or lifestyle businesses, implying that we don't aim high enough. How patronising! If you want to run a small business from home to fit in around your family that's great, but if you want to go global and take over the world, go for it. Whatever you do, ask yourself whether it could be scaled up to work on a bigger scale. Start thinking about it now and build a plan to create a scalable business from the start, rather than having to redesign everything later on.


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